drama_masks I am in London, one of my favorite cities on earth: the history, the buildings, the English people, everything about this place charms me. I love the big taxis that I have a challenge getting in and out of, but once I’m in, they’re big and roomy and the drivers are pleasant and chatty in that lovely English way of speaking (clearly, they don’t think it’s an accent — they speak “Proper” English, the Queen’s English!), and I listen and just swoon with delight!

I’m here for a Landmark Education course called “The World is Your Stage.” It is affectionately called, “the acting course”; and, yes, it is sort of about acting, but more about who you’re being in the world. I’ve been doing Landmark Education courses since 2005, and they are ALL about who you are being and the possibilities your way of being opens up for you in your life. This one happens to be through the lens of acting.

One of the leaders of the course is Werner Erhard, the man who created Erhard Seminar Trainings in the 1970’s, better known as EST. I didn’t do the training then. Transcendental Meditation, or TM, was also introduced to the United States at that time, mostly by The Beatles, who studied with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and I decided that was more for me than EST — no weekends in a room without bathroom breaks for me! Those are the stories I heard and I thought, “What kind of course makes those kinds of demands?” I didn’t even hear the stories of the breakthroughs people had about their lives — because I didn’t want to; I didn’t think my life needed a breakthrough — my attitude was “Who needs that?”

The answer to that is, I did. My ego was so firmly entrenched that anything that spoke of growth and change was a threat to me. TM was so calming — I didn’t even do it for the spiritual value; I did it for the peacefulness it gave me. I meditate to this day, but it now is part of my spiritual practice.

My life went on: I lost a baby, I had a baby, I left the fashion business, I left my husband, my son left me — with the cat — and I suffered from depression for many years, trying every medication under the sun to get me to a place of “normal” so that I could actually function in life.

I finally did the Landmark Forum in April, 2005, and then continued with LE courses after that because every single one provided some amazing breakthrough, some fabulous shift for me. By that time, Werner was long gone — “run out of town,” so to speak, by a horrible “60 Minutes” segment that accused him of some not very nice things, which caused quite a stir. Those accusations were later refuted and retracted — he never did any of it, people recanted, the IRS admitted they were wrong, all of which never made the front pages, but was buried in the back of the newsfeed. The harm was done and Werner sold his company to his employees, who changed the name to Landmark Education, he left the United States — and for a very long time, no one heard from him.

Still, I wondered at those who spoke of Werner with such love and devotion that it almost landed for me as “guru-esque” — something that has never appealed to me. I wondered, “how could a person have been so vilified by one segment of the population and loved so profoundly by so many others?” I was curious about him, but no more than that.

Last November, when I went to hear Werner speak on a new model of Leadership at NYU’s Skirball Center, he wasn’t on the stage 5 minutes before I got the charisma, the love, the sheer power and Being of the man — and I saw why everyone loves him so much — and I remember feeling what a disservice “60 Minutes” did to the rest of the world to reduce him to some I-don’t-know-what. What a cowardly thing to do in the name of news! They robbed the rest of us, for a short time anyway, of the love and devotion that Werner has for humanity — his commitment to what’s possible for human beings. At the end of that evening in Skirball Center, I was so touched and moved and inspired by him to live a great life, a life that in some measure could do what he has done for millions — which is to be the thought leader that he is… to make a contribution to people. His love for us just beamed out over the audience in the way I felt when I remember Martin Luther King, when I went to Sai Baba’s ashram, how I feel when I get my hugs from Amma.

And, now this weekend: To see how much he loves people, up close and personal. LOVES US. Every minute was a moment spent taking us to another level — to see what life could be for us: joyful, fulfilled, all of it. The way he’d kiss someone on the forehead or on top of the head, like a father comforting a child or rewarding a child was so touching. You know he means every word out of his mouth. His commitment to us was palpable — is palpable. And, he can spot bullshit a mile away — and dismantle it. One of the distinctions of this course is “I am loved,” which, for me, landed as spiritual. AND, I know — I mean KNOW in the deepest place in my being — that one of those who loves us simply because we are human, just the way we are and just the way we’re not — is Werner Erhard. It was an honor and a priviledge to be in the room with him.

Since the course was over on Sunday night, I’ve been through a range of emotions: loss, sadness, regret about some of the things I’ve done in my life; on to getting complete with those items, either by writing about them, or crying as I looked out my window at my view of Parliament and Big Ben; and got for myself that all these things I want to do — and don’t, all these dreams I have for myself — and don’t move toward them — these are all now integrity issues for me. I gave my Word to myself about so many things — writing my book, losing weight, having a relationship, getting rid of all my clutter — and I just haven’t done what I said I would do, and so I’m out of integrity with myself that I don’t live the life I want to live.

I thank Werner and the other leaders of that course, for having me see what there is to do now in the world; to see now what is possible for me in my life — simply by Being who I really am.

I think people are afraid of people who love so much, who contribute so much, who are not afraid to disrupt the status quo and shake things up — because then they might have to change, too. Not because Werner makes them change, or rather, transform; because, after being with people like this, you can no longer be satisfied with a small life — it’s simply not fulfilling. What is possible appears before me as my destiny as one who is already my Greatness — I, you — we just don’t know it yet. Werner reminds us — and that can be very threatening. Just as Martin Luther King was threatening, just as Gandhi was threatening — in fact, just as Christ was threatening.

After this weekend, I realized that not finishing this book I’m writing would not only be playing small, but it would be a cop-out in life. This “playing small” is now an integrity issue for me.

I’ve been with people who play big. I’ve been with Werner, who plays BIG. And, what he taught me is: that playing BIG is here for ALL PEOPLE.

Now, I am one of those people who loves him and is devoted to him. And, happy to be that.

Deliciously yours in the LOVE that is All, Linda

The header picture above is the view from my room here in London. I hear Big Ben chiming as I lay in my bed and think about what I’ve learned here, how I’ve transformed here, how my future rolls out in front of me as the beautiful future that it is!

 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you

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This is how it goes, living in New York City:

I opened my Facebook page one night about 8PM and saw that my friend, Peri Lyons, chanteuse extraordinaire, was doing her cabaret show down in Greenwich Village that night.  I wanted to go.

I called another friend, Janey, and asked her if she was up for some sultry singing and could she be ready in – Oh, say? —  5 minutes?   She could.

We met outside Caffe Vivaldi at Bleecker and Jones Streets and got ourselves a table inside.  The café is a tiny place with an eclectic crowd — fitting because Peri, herself, is many styles and many tastes and many charms  (she sings songs such as her own “Mrs. DeSade Explains”, written from the point of view of the wife of the Marquis)  with an altogether mellifluous voice — dulcet tones mixed with sensuous self-embrace that led Janey to remark, “Wow!  She is the distinction, ‘temptress’.”    And, so she is…

Peri is also a psychic with mystical powers.  On her break, she came to sit with us. She touched my hand and declared that I would be in a relationship by November of this year.  I don’t ordinarily look forward to the onset of winter, but I must admit to a certain anticipation of this year’s late fall and what that will bring.  Peri is known for her accurate predictions.

Janey and I left at around midnight after a totally delightful evening.  She walked me to the subway and then headed on home to Soho.

Years ago, I never rode the subway late at night.  I was afraid.   Now, I find it the most interesting time.  One never knows what will happen on the subway.  You can choose to be fearful or you can choose to be open to the magic of the below-ground in Manhattan.

First, you have to figure out where you’re going.  NYC subways are notorious for announcing – once you are on them – that they are not going where you think they are going.  That night was no different.

Announcer:  “This ‘E’ train will be running on the  ‘F’ track to Queens.  If you want to continue on the ‘E’ train route in Manhattan, get off at the next stop and take the ‘V’ train to 53rd and Lexington and…”.    God help the subway novice!

I got off at the next stop to find the “V” train which would take me three blocks from my apartment rather than ride the “F” train to 63rd and Lexington – a good 11 blocks from my home.  I followed the underground labyrinth up stairs and down stairs to get myself onto the “V” train platform.

As I waited for the train, I heard music drift from further down the platform… Lyrical acoustic guitar strains from long ago,  Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” that I have alternately loved and hated, depending on where I’ve been in my life:

“When she gets there, she knows if the stores are all closed,  with a word she can get what she came for…”

I was mesmerized.  I started walking towards the music, past the people on the platform, young people with hats and bottles, coming home – or going to – a party, the melody luring me on…

“And it’s whispered that soon if we all call the tune. Then the piper will lead us to reason…”

I felt as if I was in some strange movie, floating past little snippets of life in the city; a mother with a sleeping baby in a stroller and another curled in under her neck,  moving towards the music as Odysseus to the sirens’ song…

“And a new day will dawn for those who stand long and the forests will echo with laughter…”

I pushed through a crowd standing around the singer, close enough to pay him homage (he was very good), yet far enough away because he was dirty and strange looking, with a curly, matted beard, wearing a torn, brown tweed coat on a warm day, and an open, red velvet-lined guitar case at his feet.

“Yes, there are two paths you can go by but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on…”

Out of all the people around him – quite a few for almost 1 in the morning – he turned and looked right at me.  I couldn’t help but look back.

“Your head is humming and it won’t go in case you don’t know,  the piper’s calling you to join him…”

I moved out of the ring of people surrounding the musician – the dirty, bedraggled, red- ringlets-beard of a man who was staring at me as he was singing.  I took out a wad of dollar bills.

“Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know:  Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.”

I leaned over, still looking at him, and put the crumpled bills in the guitar case.

A train was barreling into the station, almost — but not quite — drowning out the shift to the louder electronic guitar that is the latter part of “Stairway..”.    I glanced over to see that it was the “V” train I was waiting for.

I looked back at the strange musician.

“And if you listen very hard the tune will come to you at last.  When all are one and one is all, yeah, to be a rock and not to roll.”

I turned and stepped through the subway train doors.  I crossed the car and sat down facing out to the man singing.  He was still looking at me.

“And she’s buying a stairway….to heaven.”

The train started out of the station.  I was shaking.  Not from fear – I’m not afraid in New York City.

I felt touched by something.

When I arrived at my stop, I got out of the train and climbed the stairs up out of the station to the dark night above-ground.  I took a deep breath of what passes for fresh air here.

I couldn’t get the song out of my head.

Down the street from the subway stop is the police precinct for my neighborhood.  Outside the door, a young girl with long dark hair, all dressed up, was having her picture taken by a man and another girl standing next to him.  I stopped to allow them to get the shot.  I heard the camera click,  and then he smiled at me to pass.  As I walked by, he said:

“We just bailed her out of jail!”  They looked happy.  I smiled back and turned to give her a thumbs-up.  She threw her head back in laughter and waved at me.

There’s a 24-hour Korean deli on the corner of my block.  The night’s adventure made me hungry, and I stopped in to get a cup of my favorite Ben and Jerry’s pistachio ice cream.  A taste of heaven if ever there was one.

As I walked the last steps to my apartment, I thought about the evening and how everything in my life is a blessing — because I choose to see it that way.  Heaven is anywhere — and everywhere — you want it to be.

“Oooo, it makes me wonder…”

Deliciously yours in the Possibility of it All, Linda

“Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing.” …Helen Keller

The song in the story above is “Stairway to Heaven,” by Led Zeppelin from the 1971 album, “LED ZEPPELIN IV”, written by guitarist, Jimmy Page,  and  vocalist, Robert Plant.  It was never released as a single.  It is considered by many as the best rock song of all time, and Jimmy Page’s guitar solo, the best guitar solo of all time.  Here it is:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9TGj2jrJk8.

To the left is the most extraordinary and talented singer/songwriter, Peri Lyons.    She also writes a blog on her observations, called “The Ampelopsis Diaries” at www.MissPeriLyons.blogspot.com,  which —  I warn you  — do not read unless you are in the mood to laugh so hard that bladder-control may actually become a serious issue.

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

“I’ve found that every spiritual advance I’ve made was preceded by some sort of a fall – in fact, it’s almost a universal law that a fall of some kind precedes a major shift.”  

THIS was the sentence that stopped me cold in my reading of Wayne Dyer’s new book, “The Shift: Taking your Life from Ambition to Meaning.” 

I was reading – and loving — this book, a companion book to Dr. Dyer’s movie of the same name, ‘The Shift,” that came out last year.  I watched and enjoyed that movie then and  — loyal Wayne Dyer fan that I am — always intended to re-watch it so I could take notes on his always wise observations on life.   I never got around to that.    

I was relieved when I heard he had written a companion book – “How considerate of him to realize that we frustrated note-takers would appreciate a summary of everything he said in the movie.”   I was so involved in the stories in the film — the stories that illustrate, in each case, a character’s or a couple’s fall, or near destruction as a result of the ego’s  striving  — to a choice for meaning — and love — in each character’s life.  

As I read the book, I arrived at that passage and stopped to reflect – “Yes, that’s exactly how it’s gone for me” — personal and career falls, followed by a yearning for something more, a shift to something greater in my spirit, that often resulted in some beautiful revelation about myself or the world or the Universe, or God, Himself – and generated a transformation of my own world view, my own Being – so that the competition I felt before transformed into willingness, the judgment transformed into empathy and compassion, and the feeling of “I’ve got to make this happen” transformed into surrender to the God of my mind and heart. 

Dr. Dyer’s new book, besides being the companion book to “The Shift” movie, is also a lovely sort-of “handbook” to his spiritual philosophy –  not an in-depth  analysis of the “Tao Te Ching” that his previous book, “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life”  is,  nor a how-to book like “Excuses Begone!: How to Change Lifelong, Self-Defeating Thinking Habits,” both of which I also read and liked very much. 

 “The Shift” is a synopsis of a spiritual world view grounded in purpose and meaning. 

It is, at 112 pages, a short book for Wayne Dyer, and for that, a very appealing one.  Dr. Dyer gets to his point quickly – a life based in ego thoughts can never be ultimately satisfying, given, as the ego is, to always wanting more. And, then, the dreaded sentence: “a fall of some kind precedes a major shift.”  Somehow or other, there is some kind of “fall” – a set-back, a disappointment, a divorce – or almost one, losing a job or a project – something that takes us down so low that there is a danger of losing our way in life.  It is often at those low points that we see something we never saw before. 

What is possible to see in those falls is that there IS another way – a way that leads to fulfillment and joy –  finding, or suddenly realizing, one’s purpose. 

Dr. Dyer’s books always seem to come to me at just the right time in my life – I often get the feeling that he sits in his study in Maui writing just for me.  I think his message this time could very possibly be for the entire world.  

We’ve just been through a financial crisis – one marked by the drive of greed, ambition, and cut-throat competition – all ear-marks of the ego gone wild.  If this isn’t a fall, I don’t know what is.

What do we do now?  Dr. Dyer paints a clear choice.  We can either go back to the ego driven world we had before – and, I say, there are signs that is happening in many quarters.  Or, as Dr. Dyer suggests, we can look within, and find those places where we can make a difference – and look to serve an end beyond ourselves. 

The journey to Meaning, Dr. Dyer asserts, is to raise our consciousness from our own material wants and desires and find that for which we came – to serve others, to serve humanity, to serve the world.    

Dr. Dyer’s message is,  “…making the shifts to humility, trust, and letting go feel natural because we’re rejoining our original nature.  A life of meaning is only a thought away.” 

What will you choose?

Deliciously yours in the Source of it All, Linda

Here is the link to Dr. Wayne Dyer’s, “The Shift:  Taking Your Life From Ambition to Meaning” at his website:  http://www.drwaynedyer.com/

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.

We say, “I’m going to go on a diet,” and maybe we join a gym or maybe we eat healthy –  for a few days or weeks –  and then —  we get too busy to  go to the gym, and we see a great dessert and say, “Oh, just this once…”

And that’s the end of the resolution.

We’re right back to where we were before.  Worse, really, because, now,  we feel bad about ourselves because we failed at THAT,  too.

We fail because we make it all about the “doing” and not about who we’re “being”…

For me, it’s been more effective to take a stand for something — a stand for myself, a stand for someone else — a stand for something that’s important to me.  That “stand” becomes something that the living without THAT would be — not who I am.

This is not easy.  It takes being present to who we really are all the time and THAT is a challenge.  It’s just not something we do — We tend to be a lot “foggier” about our lives.   Without that presence — Well, life will simply continue on automatic.

What it takes is courage.  Courage to face the truth in ourselves. Courage to do the work to be who we really are.

Complacency is so much easier.

The first step is to really get what’s going on now:  The “what’s so” in the matter.  Once you get that, you’ll know where you are standing now on the issue – and then you can see whether you like standing there or not.

I remember when I quit smoking for good.  I had quit many times before that last time.  I did all the things that smokers do when they try to quit:  I tapered off, for a while. Then —  a bad day at work would set me off and I would realize I’d finished a pack.   A few times, I quit cold – and all I could think of was a cigarette. Then I sneaked a cigarette at a party and was right back to smoking.

Every time I went back to smoking, I hated myself about it more than before.

I couldn’t trust my own Word to myself in the matter of smoking.

I never referred to myself as a smoker.  I tricked myself into thinking that I only smoked when I was socializing or I only smoked after dinner or I only smoked outside my apartment.

Rarely did I notice that I smoked when I was by myself and I smoked in the morning and I smoked sitting in front of the television late at night when I was too lazy to go out into the stairwell or to go outside.

On October 10th in 2000, my friend invited me to an Anthony Robbins event at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.  The Meadowlands is right across the Hudson River from Manhattan, so she also had to talk me into taking the train down to her house in South Jersey so that she didn’t have to drive to the Meadowlands alone – and so I did.

The night I arrived at her house, I sneaked outside to have a few cigarettes on the back deck.  I sneaked out there again the next morning and I smoked outside the Meadowlands, after our long drive from her house and before we entered the arena.

During the course of this event — a motivation-driven event for 3000 people that included speeches by Christopher Reeve, Barbara Walters, General Norman Schwarzkopf, Donald Trump, and Tony himself – I quit smoking for good.

I love Tony Robbins – in the pantheon of motivational speakers, he’s got the thing DOWN.  He’s got more energy than any ten people I know.  And he goes for the jugular of self-loathing in a way that leaves you no choice but to face yourself.  Really.

At one point in the event, he talked about smoking and smokers.  It was clear that he does not think that being a smoker is an empowering way to live one’s life…  What he thinks is even more disempowering is when we don’t know who we are around being a smoker…

He addressed the audience, “Raise your hand if you’re a smoker.”

I didn’t raise my hand.  After all, I wasn’t REALLY a smoker, I didn’t smoke ALL the time….

About one-third of the people raised their hands.

He then said, “Raise your hand if you’re not a smoker.”

Well, I couldn’t very well raise my hand.  I did smoke… SOMETIMES.

A different one-third of the people raised their hands.

Then, he said, “Raise your hand if you didn’t raise your hand for either of the other two choices.”

I breathed a sigh of relief.  Now, here was something I could get behind:   Ambivilance.

I proudly raised my hand high.

Well, pride goeth before a fall.

Tony said, “Good for you if you don’t smoke.  Acknowledge yourselves for that – you’re taking one step towards leading a healthy life.  There’s nothing more for me to say to you about this.”

Now for the smokers, “YOU know that you’re doing something that’s not good for you.  You know that and you continue smoking.  You think of yourself as a smoker and until you don’t, you’ll continue to be a smoker.  I’m not going to try to talk you into quitting smoking.”

No lecture, no advice, no nothing.

Tony continued, “The people I really want to address are those of you who didn’t raise your hand for either ‘Yes, I’m a smoker’ or ‘No, I’m not a smoker.’  Don’t you get that you either are or you aren’t a smoker?  There are only two choices here.  Who are you kidding?  Only yourselves.  Everyone around you knows what you are.”

Suddenly, I was embarrassed.  I guess I thought I was fooling everyone.

“You are living in a fantasy world.  A world where you cannot possibly make a powerful choice for yourself because you don’t even know where you stand RIGHT NOW.”

Tony didn’t say much more than that – he’s not into convincing people to do things.  What he did say was much more powerful:

“I’m going to ask you all again.  This time, I want you to choose one or the other because there can ONLY be one or the other.  Be honest with yourself.  Be true to yourself.  Be willing to be responsible for the consequences of your behavior, whatever that is.  Non-smoker?  Healthy choice.  Smoker?  Unhealthy choice.  Know thyself.  Choose powerfully.”

Then, he asked again, “How many of you are smokers?”

It was a moment of truth for me.  Am I a smoker?  Is that who I am?  Am I someone who daily makes an unhealthy choice for my life?  Someone who does something to put myself at risk for my LIFE every day?

NO, that’s NOT who I am.

I didn’t raise my hand.

Then, Tony asked, “How many of you are non-smokers?”

I hesitated only a moment.  I raised my hand. I was a non-smoker.

That was it.  I never smoked another cigarette.  I never reached for one, I never craved one, I never thought about smoking again since that day.

Looking back on it now, in the light of what I’ve learned since then, I realize that what I did – what Tony helped me to do – is the simple formula for transformation of anything:

Get profoundly related to the “what’s so” in the matter.  And, given that, what is your stand – for yourself, for your life, for the world?

That’s what I believe in.  That’s what I do every day of my life – about whatever comes up.  A stand is a very powerful thing – because we are very powerful Beings.

I’m working on my stand for 2010.  So far, it sounds something like this:

My possibility for myself and my life is to live in the fullness of life everyday, to be in partnership with everyone who comes into my life, to be someone who gives everything I have to give, always.

Happy New Year!

Deliciously yours in the Creation of it All,   Linda

“And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”  Rainer Maria Rilka

 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

I was looking for my Christmas ornaments.  

It was the Fall of 2007.  I hadn’t had a Christmas tree in all the time I’d  lived in my apartment, four years at that point.  It occurred to me to celebrate my transition into a new life by creating one of my beautiful Christmas trees, loaded with lights and decorations and wrapped in pink tulle. 

I took on cleaning out my closets to find my boxes of ornaments.

It’s funny about closets – New Yorkers always seem to want lots of closet space, AND what happens is that we bury things in there for years.  Then we forget.  We forget what we have and what we value and what has long ago lost any worth or use to us.  We let it all lay in the background of our apartments and our lives, leaving no room for anything new to come in…

After moving every box and pile out of all the closets and into the middle of the living room floor, I made a disconcerting discovery:

My Christmas ornaments were nowhere to be found.

I sat on the couch, gathering my thoughts and dusting off my memory.  Where could they be?

I remembered.   It had been a horrible time. I had to leave my previous apartment to go and live with a friend for a while.  I wasn’t working – a condition made worse by the 9/11 tragedy the prior September.  The city was still in shock, a job I had been working on dried up, and New Yorkers – as resilient as we are – were waking up to a new world.   The process was not easy.

In the midst of this, after 8 years of separation, my husband, Fred, brought me divorce papers.   When I asked, “Why now?” he said, “It’s time,” and I had to agree.  It didn’t seem that it would change anything – we had been friends for years, and there was no reason to think that we wouldn’t be as we had been.  I signed the papers.

There were many things that I couldn’t bear to put in storage when I left that apartment.  Fred helped me to move boxes of these treasures to his house: photographs, our wedding album, the blue snake paperweight he had given me when I became a Vice President at Bloomingdale’s, the Tiffany Battersea box of the Statue of Liberty from her birthday year, my amethyst ring that I had designed in a little goldsmith shop in Florence, some of my favorite articles of clothing, and all my Christmas decorations.

When Fred and I were first married, we made a promise that we would give each other an ornament that was a special gift to the other.   Although Fred is Jewish, we always had a Christmas tree and decorations all over the apartment.   That first year, I bought a white felt church ornament and, with a black Sharpee, I wrote, “United Nations Interfaith Chapel, May 16, 1976” around the front doors to celebrate our wedding day.

In the years following that, I would go to work at Bloomingdale’s early on the morning after Christmas day and buy some of the special ornaments that I had been coveting that season – now at 50% off.  I bought angels and gilt boxes, and delicate crystal scene ornaments.  One year, Bloomingdale’s had a Venetian Christmas theme, and I bought masks and gondolas and Venetian chandeliers, and a hand-painted porcelain jester to sit atop the tree.

When I realized that the ornaments had to have been at Fred’s, I called to ask him to drop them off for me.  When I made my request, he said, “But… you gave them to me.”  I was so surprised by his response that all I could do was to repeat it, “I gave them to you? For keeps?”  He said that I did.  I still couldn’t get it, “You’ve been using them?  All these years?”     

I stopped myself before I said what was there for me, “All these years?  Without me?

I listened as he recounted the day and the conversation when I had done so.  I didn’t remember.  That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.  Losing my home was so traumatic that Christmas ornaments and divorce papers for a marriage long over paled by comparison.   I could even imagine myself saying, “Sure, take them.”

I made a stab for sympathy , “Fred, you know what I was going through.  Wouldn’t you want me to have them back now?”

He didn’t.  He was annoyed as he said that he thought they were his and he’d see what he could do about pulling them together for me, but some of them weren’t there anymore. 

I knew instantly what he meant.  My special “love” mementos weren’t there.  His girlfriend would never hang an ornament on the tree that was “engraved” with the date and place of our marriage.  I didn’t want to hear that there were ornaments that had been thrown out, discarded in some trashcan someplace, sullied and forever lost.

I stopped talking.  We were in two different conversations, and I realized that I didn’t want to be in THAT conversation anymore – the conversation of “mine” and “yours” that had run our marriage.  Those ornaments weren’t my marriage, they weren’t my feelings, they weren’t my life.  They were memories, and that’s what they would remain.

I hung up the phone and I knew I was done. We had tried hard to maintain a friendship, an enchantment about the way we loved each other, first passionately, now fondly.  It was over, I knew – but, I always believed – and still do – that God can always start over again.  It may not look the same, but He can make things as beautiful and as glorious as ever  they were –  and even greater… IF we let Him…

In the moment, that seemed like a stretch….

In the following weeks, I went through all the boxes from my closets.  Most of them contained books that I had been lugging around from apartment to apartment, never opening them, hidden away and taking up space.

One box was full of Fred’s old books.  I took them out of the box, remembering how he would talk about what he was reading – Fred is a brilliant, passionate man and it was never more evident than when he was reading something he loved.

He read mostly non-fiction.  The books were “Kippur,” “Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number,” “The Abandonment of the Jews: America and The Holocaust,” ”Who Financed Hitler.”  And, because he couldn’t stand not to have a wholly informed point of view, there was also “The Disinherited:  Journal of a Palestinian Exile.”

At the bottom of the box were Solzhenitisyn’s books.  I closed my eyes and was taken back to when we were dating and we would go to the Hamptons for the weekends.  I remembered him lying on his side in the sand, under the hot sun, engrossed in “The Gulag Archipelago.”   I remembered the curve of his arm as he leaned his head on his hand, how the muscles in his shoulder looked strong and protective…. how I was overwhelmed with love for him….    It was the most erotic posture I could imagine….  My heart used to melt just watching him read…

I put all those books back in the box and closed it up.   For a brief moment, I considered calling Fred to ask if he wanted them, but I knew better.  He never saved books — or anything else.  When he was done with something, he threw it out or gave it away.  He would have been surprised to know that I still had these.   

I pulled the box through my front door and dragged it down the hall to the service elevator. 

I rang the buzzer on the elevator and ran back to my apartment.  As I opened the door, I looked back to see the porter pulling the box into the cage.   In one swift movement, it was gone.

I stepped inside my apartment and closed the door behind me.  I sighed as I leaned back against the door and closed my eyes.  

My closets were clean and clear…  It was time to work on my heart…

I thought,  “I will buy a new Christmas ornament tomorrow.  I don’t know what it will look like, but it will be special and it will be beautiful, and it will be the first of many magical things I will have in my life…”

Christmas is a time of birth, renewal, creation, and love….   a new year…  a new life… for all of us…

Begin again.

Deliciously yours in the Enchantment of it All, Linda

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished.
That will be the beginning.”
Louis L’Amour

*EPILOGUE:  This story was orginally written in the Fall of 2007.  Fred and I are good friends now and always will be….  God has created a new friendship between us — a different way of being with each other that is as beautiful as the time when we were in love….  It is a friendship full of kindness, caring, and grace that I am blessed to have in my life…..

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

autumn-leaves-nancy-muellerRevisedI’ve always loved writing…. more accurately, I’ve always loved words….  I read so much as a child that my mother was always calling through my bedroom door, late at night – as I hung over the side of my bed with a flashlight so I could read “just a few more pages” of my latest novel – “Linda, stop that reading!  It’s time to go to sleep….!”  Reluctantly, I would lay down my book and close my eyes —  to continue the stories in my dreams of far away places and exciting men and women doing adventurous things…  

I made up my mind that I, too, would be one of those adventurous souls; that I, too, would write exciting and revealing stories of insight and revelation and love —  and love lost…. 

When I went to college, it was just so natural for me to choose English Literature as my major….  the chance to go to school and have to read ten to fifteen books a week?  Wow!  This was not work, this was love, this was exciting…!  This was permission to do what I had always wanted to do….  Sweet!

The writing naturally flowed out of that…  An assigned paper was not just something to get done – it was something that could be a work of art…  I was never happy until it flowed the right way, the words were musical to the ear, the grammar was impeccable…. 

I’ve been writing all my life – but this is the first time I’ve ever let anyone read what I’ve written…  I never knew why.  I’ve often come up with great ideas to write about… and write them, I have….. I have journals and pages and notebooks everywhere — reminding me of stories yet to be written, novels yet to be formulated, pithy little “how to” books yet to be organized…. 

They sit there still, never developed, never having that last dollop of imagination and sheer will needed to get them into manuscript form…. 

A few years ago,  I was a coach in a course that was all about creating the life of your dreams….  “What comes out of your mouth creates your life….” and “Speak your dreams…..” are the mantras of the education.   What we learned is that, if you are stopped in any area of your life, there was an earlier, similar time that created a block – and this course was about “un-blocking” the blocks — and seeing ourselves as limitless and creative  — and that anything is possible…. 

One night, I worked with my participants on their dreams.  We went around the room and each person spoke of the secret dreams they had — what they would have and what they would do…  one day…   someday…  but not now….  

My job was to get each person present to what was standing in the way — what was that earlier, similar time that lived for them in the background as why they couldn’t have that NOW…?   I was  really in there with them to release that block and create a new possibility….  A new possibility that included that dream — that way of being that would make that dream come true…   a new possibility for a new life….. 

It was a long night…. at the end of the evening, I thought we were done when one of my participants, Peter, said to me, “Linda, what is YOUR dream…?” I hesitated…  then I said it  for the first time: 

“I want to be a writer…” 

Peter didn’t leave it at that…. He said, “So, why aren’t you?” 

I couldn’t answer him. 

He went on, “Linda, you know this education well enough to know that if you are not doing that – if you are stopped — there is an earlier, similar time that created the block to that….  Good God!  That’s what we’ve been working on all night long!” 

As I was shaking my head, “No” – I suddenly had a flash back to college and something that happened in one of my classes – and I knew that was it…. 

One of my courses was entitled, “The Novel to 1900”, and – as much as I love reading, this is one of those courses that really put that commitment to the test.  I had to read between 3 and 5 novels a week for that course alone.  

As part of the coursework, I had to write a paper on one or more of the novels – a topic of my own choosing.  I chose to compare and contrast two novels that were very different in style, yet, I felt similar in quest – the quest for happiness or enligtnement – and worth pointing out.  They were Voltaire’s “Candide” and Samuel Johnson’s “Rasselas”.  While “Candide” is a satire and, hence, uses a naïve storyline to tell what Voltaire felt was a profound fact of human existance – that we live always in the best of all possible worlds; “Rasselas” is a direct  story of a journey to seek enlightenment and raises the question “Can we, as humans, ever achieve happiness?” 

That was my version of it, anyway – and, I handed in my paper, satisfied that I had made my point and that it was a good paper. 

In class a few weeks later, the teacher handed out the graded papers to everyone in the room – except me.  I was puzzled as I looked around to see that I was the only one who had not received her paper back. 

I went to Douglass College, which is the womens’ college of Rutgers University, and this school had – and probably has to this day – an “Honor Board”.  If it was felt that a student had done something untoward, they could be asked by a peer or a teacher or anyone in the school, to report themselves to the Honor Board. 

When class was dismissed, I went to the Professor to get my paper, and – as all the other students were filing out of the classroom —  the teacher told me that she was requesting that I report myself to the Honor Board – that she believed the paper was “too sophisticated and too rich” to have been written by a 19-year old. 

She believed that I plagerized the paper. 

I tried to maintain my composure, but could feel my cheeks burning as I fought back tears.  I could sense, more than I could actually see, the other girls walking by me and staring – as I told the teacher that this was my idea, that I had not researched it anywhere – and, I stood my ground and stated that I was not reporting myself to the Honor Board because I didn’t do anything wrong. 

The Professor told me that if I would not, she would do it for me. 

Stunned, I walked out of the classroom and went directly to the ladies room, where I tried to wash the shame from my face and the red from my eyes —  and tried to regain my composure for my next class.  Other girls from my class were in there and none of them spoke to me.  I felt ostracized and I felt numb – and I didn’t understand what just happened… 

I waited for two weeks while the Honor Board researched my professor’s claim.  At the end of that time, I received a letter from the board that they had investigated and did not find anything to support that I had plagerized the paper, either in concept or in content.  I was instructed to go back to my professor to receive a grade. 

I went back to my professor and showed her the letter from the Honor Board.  She took it from me and read it for what seemed like an eternity.  Finally, she looked up and said to me, “I don’t care what they say.  I don’t believe you wrote that paper.  I will not give you an ‘A’.”   With that, she leaned over her desk and wrote a “B” on the paper and handed it back to me. 

I never thought of that incident again until the night with my participants during the Wisdom Course.  But, when I got it…. I got it…..  

I realized that I had made a decision I didn’t know I made – after that time so many years ago —  that I would never again put my writing out there for anyone to see or read or judge.  And, every day since then it has been my secret love, my dream unspoken….  and something has been missing in my life…. 

With my Wisdom group, I created a possibility for myself that I would write and I would get it out there some way, and I would do it for myself and if people liked it, great… and if they didn’t, that was OK too….

Our dreams are for us….  and the living into them is for the world…..  When we live our dreams, we give permission for everyone else to have their dreams, too…  When we speak our dreams, it opens up a conversation in which all can participate – and then each person’s  dreams look real and attainable…. 

Writing this blog has been a joy and a blessing  for me…. and whenever any of you write to me and tell me that it has made a difference for you, that is a gift… and I thank you…. 

I also thank you, Candide, and I thank you, Rasselas, for making your journeys…. for in your journeys to find happiness, I have found mine….. 

I know this now…. I am a writer….  

…..and a dreamer….  

and so are you….  

Deliciously yours in the Magic of it All, Linda 

“If you hear a voice within you saying ‘I am not a painter,’ then by all means, paint… and that voice will be silenced” … Vincent Van Gogh

“Everyone has a purpose in life… a unique gift or special talent to give to others. And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals”    – Deepak Chopra

This post was originally titled, “And this gives life to thee….”  from William Shakespeare’s sonnet, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”  I changed it because I think this title is more appropriate to the content.  Thanks for understanding that this is a work in progress.

The Wisdom Course is a division of Landmark Education.    Follow your dreams…..  www.landmarkeducation.com 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

DianeBWhiteGarden5I’m a real estate broker, and I just sold my penthouse listing that I’ve had for over a year. 

When we first put it on the market last year, we had an offer in three days – great price, cash sale.  My owner almost couldn’t believe it – two guys walked in, took one look, and the next day, we had a great offer…. 

That was in August.  AND… in New York City, in a coop, it’s a good two to three months from “accepted offer” to closing…. 

A lot happened in the months between August and October, 2008, as we all know…. but, they were doctors with not much stock market exposure… and so, it seemed that we would be OK…. 

I did their “board package” and applied to the board of directors — they passed easily…   The day I called to tell them that they were approved to move into the building, the stock market dropped over 700 points.   The next day I got the call….  they were backing out of the deal, leaving their deposit on the table….  

They were scared…. 

Everyone was…   Soon, New York City was a barren real estate market  in an even bigger real estate desert….  

I went from having one of the hottest apartments on the market…. to being in the same boat with everyone else… no customers, no mortgages, no sales…. 

Oh, did I mention that this particular penthouse apartment has a huge set-back terrace….?   There is room for a table and chairs, lounges, and a hammock… in the middle of Manhattan!   Once the sun crossed over the water tower on the building, there was bright sun all day long on this beautiful terrace that faced South, West, and North… 

After a few more false starts with customer interest and then wariness, we made a decision to take the apartment off the market for the winter.  My owners had relocated to Boston in the Fall, moving out in the middle of October as they had planned  – when they originally thought they would be closing.… 

I threw out the dead plants and we closed up the apartment.     It looked as forlorn and desolate as the entire market seemed…. 

As the Spring approached, we started planning to put the apartment back on the market…  and we discussed how we would set up the apartment to get the most mileage out of  marketing the property… 

We could have “staged” the empty apartment, but a terrace in Manhattan is a really big deal…    New Yorkers are funny about outdoor space….  you would think that they were never going to see a tree again….!    So, in the toss up between moving furniture in and buying plants and landscaping the terrace…. 

My vote was for the terrace….. 

Once I said that, I cringed inside….  My owners didn’t live there anymore… and I live two blocks away….   And, my stand as a real estate broker has always been to do the extra things that make the difference to my owners and buyers….  I research the schools, I find out about moving companies, I supply lists of grocery stores and restaurants, dry cleaners and hardware stores in the neighborhood… 

And…  I’ve never been able to grow a plant in my life….  I have grand ideas about trees in my living room or plants in ceramic pots in the windows…   and they all die…  No sooner do I buy an orchid plant in full bloom than, one by one, the blooms fall off and the stem turns brown…. 

I did have a neighbor once who taught me how to water her plants when she was away….   with that successful memory in mind, I offered my owner,  “Please  don’t worry…  I’ll come over and water every day…. “  I knew I could do that much…. 

Secretly, I worried that something would go wrong and those beautiful plants would wither and die under my care…. 

I even remember, years ago,  when I took up Astrology and found out that I have no earth in my chart….   I thought, “No wonder all my plants die!  No wonder I don’t cook!  No wonder I’m not  ‘earthy’….” 

It didn’t make sense to me, actually….   My mother was an avid gardener…    She had flower gardens and a vegetable garden and hedges of lilacs around our property, and roses growing up the entire side of our garage….  When the lilacs bloomed, my mother would cut bunches and bunches of them  and fill every room in our house with bowls and vases of lilacs…  To this day, when I pass a corner store selling lilacs here in the city, and I smell their fragrance on the air,  I always think of her…. and I am reminded of how much I miss her…  and all the beauty that she gave me…

She was known for making things grow… One time, I asked her how she could spend hours on her knees, planting and weeding, and picking and arranging….  She told me that the flowers and vegetables kept her in touch with who she was… they kept her “grounded”… 

I often heard her talk to her plants….  she was as affectionate with them as she was with us….  I asked her why she did that and she told me that plants don’t grow unless they feel loved…  She said that talking to them reassured them that she loved them…. 

Well, maybe….  it was clear to me that she spent time with them, she took care of them, and there was something magical in what she did…  everything she touched, grew…  And…  I had no idea what that was!  If she wanted to call it love… that was fine by me….

The landscaper came in and set up the plants.  They were pretty, but hardly lush.  She told me that it would take awhile for them to “warm” to their environment….  as she spoke, I thought, “Oh, no… this is just like my mother….  it’s not just about the watering….  there’s something more here to do…. “  

I just didn’t think I had that magical quality  that could do it… whatever “it” was….

Nevertheless,  I gave my Word and now I was responsible for them.   I came over every day and I watered.  I noticed that when it rained, the wind whipped around the edge of the terrace and knocked some of the plants over, so I made a point of going over when it was windy to move the plants up close to the apartment walls….  I moved them around as they grew so that they could get the most sun… or, in some cases, when they got too much sun, I moved them into the shade for a day or so…. 

In the meantime, people were still scared…. mortgages were still scarce…. and this beautiful terrace sat, in the center of Manhattan, with no one living there….  

I started going over in the afternoons and, after I watered, I would sit and read or meditate for a while……  Soon, I found myself stroking their leaves and buds until, one day, I opened the door to the terrace, and called out, “Hi, My Babies, I’m here…!”  I caught myself…..  Now, I’m talking to plants? 

And, they grew and they grew…. 

I had to stand pots up on top of other pots because the vines and the leaves were flourishing so much  that they had to be lifted up off the hot terrace tiles…    Verdant and luxuriant, a garden to be proud of!  —  I sent pictures to the landscaper and she wrote to me, “Boy, you really have a green thumb!  They look great!…..” 

I do?  I have a green thumb? 

One day, I noticed that one of the evergreens had these little pine cone-looking things…. I thought that was odd…  None of the other evergreens had little pine cones.   After a week or so, I noticed that the leaves on that particular evergreen seemed to be thinning….. 

As I watered, I got up close to the tree, curious about those funny appendages hanging down… and then…. one of them wiggled….  I pulled my face back quickly…  what was THAT? 

I finished watering and put the hose away.  I came back to that tree and just stared at those “pine cones”…. and, suddenly, out of the top of one of them, I saw this big, black worm start to raise his head and pull himself up from the opening! 

I recoiled from what I saw!  What could this be?  And, as I looked at all these “pine cones” hanging down, I realized that these weren’t supposed to be there…. could there be black worms in every one of those cones? 

That did it!  Nothing was going to mess with my “babies”….  I ran inside the house and grabbed some paper towels and came out and pulled every one of those “pine cones” off that tree…  Harder than it looked, mind you….  There was something that looked like silk thread that tied those cones to the tree….  Finally, I thought I had gotten them all…  I took them inside and tied them into a plastic garbage bag and threw them out. 

When I got home, I googled “worms in evergreens” and….  THERE THEY WERE!!!  They are called “bag worms” and I learned all about how they make their bags from the silk thread that they produce and they take some of the little evergreen needles and “decorate” their bags with them so that they look just like little pine cones.  

I read for hours.  One woman commented that the gardener must stay vigilant because “those worms will drag those bags all over that tree….”  

I learned that they use the wind and their silk to fly from tree to tree to infest other evergreens in the area…. 

No way was that happening… !

The next day, I went over, armed for a fight….  and, sure enough, there were more bags in the very same area that I thought I had cleaned out…  I removed those and into the plastic bag they went…. 

I searched the entire terrace… I found one attached to the underside of the table…. I found one on the evergreen nearest the infested one and removed that….  I even found one attached to the apartment’s brick wall….  It was trying to get itself over to the other side of the terrace! 

I removed them all and have not found another one since….  There are other things to do to prevent them from coming back next year and I will work with the landscaper to be sure that happens….  

After I removed them all, I walked around from plant to plant, reassuring them that I was there and I was taking care of them and no “bag worms” were going to get them, not if I had anything to do with it…. 

I called the landscaper and told her what I had found.  She applauded me for spotting them and taking care of the problem….  “Just think of it this way,” she said, “You just saved a tree….”   

Wow!

That’s when I got myself in a whole new way…  I always held it before that nothing could grow around me….  even when I saw myself as successful in other areas, it always bothered me that I couldn’t make flowers grow and I didn’t know anything about vegetables… and so I thought I wasn’t “earthy” or grounded…   I always thought I didn’t have what it takes, but that wasn’t it at all… 

It struck me that I had been like those little “bag worms”, carting my “bag” of history and pre-conceived notions about myself around with me wherever I went…. and now I see how deathly that can be….. The only reason I wasn’t “earthy” was because I believed I wasn’t….  I couldn’t make flowers grow before because I was convinced that  I couldn’t do that… 

And that’s not the truth about me….

What there is to do is to create, to nurture…. to water and feed…  whether it be plants or flowers or people….. or dreams…. to be responsible for them, to speak to them… so that they always know how much I love them…..  

Anything could  grow in that space, don’t you think?  

The apartment has been sold now and will close at the beginning of November.  I promised the new owner that I would work with her on getting the landscaper in to take care of the trees for the winter and to be sure that the evergreens are sprayed for the “bag worms” so that there is no repeat of them next Spring…. 

You might think that I would be sad that I won’t be taking care of them anymore, but here’s what I’ve taken on….    Those beautiful plants on the terrace taught me something important about myself…. and I am incredibly grateful….   Now it’s time for someone else to enjoy them and take care of them….  and perhaps…  to  learn something, too…. 

There will be other gardens for me to grow…. 

Deliciously yours in the Beauty of it All,   Linda 

“Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows
lies the seed…  that with the sun’s love
in the spring… becomes the rose…”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             …”The Rose”, Bette Midler

“The only way to change your story is to change what you believe about yourself….Every time you change the main character of your story, the whole story changes to adapt to the new main character.”
~Don Miguel Ruiz

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This is the terrace I’ve been caring for all summer….  These pictures were taken mid-Summer.  All these plants are twice as big now!

 

 

 

 

 

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And, these are the evergreens that I saved from the “Bag worms”!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

“By the Sea…”

August 12, 2009

WomanOnTheSandHi, it’s Linda here again… and this week’s story is a bit nostalgic… a sweet taste, savored long ago, that still lingers…. stirring up memories of love that once was….and, somewhere, still is…..

There is a time for everything in life…. a time when we fall in love, we get married, we have a child…

Sometimes that beautiful story continues. Often, there are bumps along the way and life takes a turn that we don’t expect. It can be challenging to leave behind what once was… and, yet, there is no future in life until we let go of the past, the beautiful times as well as the tough times….

Only when our space is “clean” can there be room for something new…

Here’s a story about letting go of one of those beautiful times… and how we can do that with love….

Years ago, just before I married my husband, Fred, we had the opportunity to rent – and then buy – a house on the beach in Westhampton, New York. One of Fred’s colleagues had just taken a job in Ohio and was not going to be able to use the house that he had rented — with an option to buy, no less. He called Fred and said, “Go out there and take a look at it… If you like it, I’ll turn over the lease to you…”

The next Saturday – a cold, clear day in February, 1976 – we traveled out to the Hamptons to take a look. The long drive ended with a desolate stretch along Dune Road, passing boarded up cottages and empty driveways — to arrive at a burgundy cottage, high up on pilings, boarded up like all the others, with a rickety staircase climbing up to the front door and a high dune on the ocean-side that prevented us from seeing what lay beyond…

Like kids, we jumped out of the car and ran up the stairs, trying to peek inside – to no avail. It was a worn house, small – but the air was crisp and the sky was blue – and we whispered about how good it would be to spend the summer at the beach…

And, if we liked it? Well, it was a very inexpensive house – as all of them were then… and we could afford it if we didn’t buy an apartment in the city…. we had such freedom to choose!

When we couldn’t see inside from the front door – or even crack the board on a window a bit… we decided that we’d go under the house and climb the dune and see what the ocean looked like from there…

We scrambled up the back of the high dune – it must have been 15 feet! – and pulled each other up to the top to see a back porch that was also old and weathered…. and then we turned around….

It was beautiful… breath-taking, really… the ocean stretched out before us in an endless expanse of sea and sky… the waves rolled in a rhythmic pattern from left to right, curling foam to crash upon the white sand.…

We looked at each other and we knew this was it…. this was our house…. we hugged and we kissed and we loved and we gave everything in our hearts to each other and to this house…..

When we got home, Fred called his friend – “Yes, we’ll take it….”

We got married in May and moved into our beach house for Memorial Day weekend…. It was old and worn inside, but we didn’t care… it was warm and it was cozy and it was ours….

It would be impossible in this little story for me to tell you everything that happened in that house… the wonderful times with friends, the beautiful sun-filled weekends, the runs along the beach with the sea breeze moving us along and lobster roasts in the sand…. How we spent every weekend there from May to October every year, loving every moment of it…. so that, even in the cold of winter, when we never went out there, it lived for us in the background of our minds — as the love nest that it truly was….

When we lost our first baby in May, 1978, that summer at the beach house was a time and a place of mourning that turned into a haven of healing and love for both of us…

When Josh was born the following year, we brought him home — after 8 weeks in the hospital and a scary time when it was all about transfusions and intensive care for him — and intensive care followed by my mother’s death for her – we headed out to the beach house, in the middle of October, even though the season was over and the road was quiet and the town was empty — and we slept in our room, with Joshua in his Moses-basket by our bed….

We were at peace there…

As I look back on it now, it strikes me as odd – and strangely synchronistic: how our lives together — and what happened to the beach house — seemed to mirror each other…

Fred and I drifted into a troubled and confusing time… and the beach house suffered from winter Northeasters that left it standing precariously on three less pilings… and listing dangerously to one side – not unlike how our marriage was standing…. scary to look at, dangerous to enter, and doomed to fall into the ocean if we couldn’t fix it….

Try as we did, both the house and the marriage collapsed…. a series of winter storms in 1993 finally took the house out to sea…. the same winter that Fred and I no longer had anything left to stand on either…

After the last storm, we went out to look at where the house once stood. The road – what there was of it — was blocked, the rest of the area was flooded so that the only way out to where the house used to be was by barge — a big one with wheels that rolled into — and then floated on — the ocean… I couldn’t look… it was too painful to see it all gone…

We left the beach that day and didn’t go back… There were community groups and lawsuits to work on rebuilding the beach – and the meetings and the legal trials, once again, were much like the discord that now existed between Fred and me…

It was hard to remember how we were together before… as it was hard to remember how beautiful it had been in our house at the beach….

Over several years… and little by little, the beach was restored – lawsuits won by the community, a new town created, Westhampton Dunes, and an agreement by the government to manage the beach over the next 30 years to keep it from drifting away again…

In those same years, Fred and I mended our own hearts and – even though we chose different lives – what emerged was the foundation of real love and affection that always lay under the surface of our problems – those problems that were really defenses — against what? We don’t remember now…

Years later, when the beach was beautiful again, I went out to look at our land…. it had sat barren and empty for a long time. The lawsuits won, the area was going through a building boom and there was our beach in the midst of framed-out houses and newly planted dunes…

Waiting for a new life….

Neither Fred nor I could let it go….

Shortly after that, a developer called and made a nice offer for the land. Fred and I had been separated for years – we knew that we would never build on that land again. AND… knowing that it was in the background… that it was there… spoke of something unfinished….

Something incomplete….

It was time to let go…

We took the offer…

The week before we closed, I went out to the beach by myself… I brought a notebook and a pen and a folding chair. I opened the chair and sat there all afternoon, writing in my book – anything that I could remember about everything that ever happened in that house.

One memory was emblazoned on my heart…

The spring after Joshua was born, we opened the house early and started bringing him out there every weekend. One night, I was holding him in my arms, rocking him to sleep in an antique rocker that we had in our bedroom….

Our house was a strange shape… the master bedroom jutted out onto the back deck, facing the ocean – and the main house was at a right angle to the bedroom doors that opened onto the deck…. Sitting in the rocking chair, holding my baby – I could see both the ocean – and — if I looked a little to the right – I could see across the deck, into the living room where Fred was sitting, reading his book.

It was a perfect moment.

I felt a love wash over me that I had never felt before…. there was nothing there BUT love… I looked down at Joshua, his little eyelashes fluttering on his soft, sweet cheeks and my heart filled up and overflowed… I lifted my head and saw Fred and was overwhelmed with love for him – I turned towards the ocean and watched those beautiful waves rolling in curls onto the sand and the moonlight glistening on the ocean…. and all I could think was, “This is it… This is bliss… Thank you, God… You have blessed me…. I have everything I could ever want in my life…. I am so grateful…..” and the tears rolled down my face – I was that happy…..

And… that was a long time ago…

As I sat in the folding chair and looked at my little plot of beach – that same beach that was the place of my fondest memory and my deepest love…. I knew that what I wanted for whomever would live there was exactly that….

Love.

I took a stick and made the Reiki symbol for “love” in the sand. I climbed up the dune, one last time. Standing there, facing the sea — with the sharp, salty breeze brushing against my face and blowing my hair back — I blessed the sky, I blessed the beach, I blessed the ocean…

I said good-bye…

I packed up my folding chair, my notebook, and my bag… I turned and left…

I have a new life now, a different life…. A life I love… and, I am blessed that I had that life… once, a long time ago….

As for Fred and me? Well, real love never dies…. it changes, it looks different… but it is always love… We are friends now and that is a gift….

Deliciously yours in the Beauty of it all, Linda

“A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven”

…”Turn, Turn, Turn”, The Bryds

LindaOnFrontDeckTrimmedThis is me, on the front deck of our beach house on Dune Road in Westhampton, in the summer of 1983. It was a beautiful time — for Fred and Josh and for me, for our two other children from Fred’s first marriage, Brian and Cindy, for our house, for our friends who came to visit….. With love, always…. xoxo

 

 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

ChocolateMartini2Hi, it’s Linda again — and today I want to share with you the luscious “secret” to having your dreams fulfilled… Here’s a hint…. It’s all about what comes out of your mouth….

Your Words have Power and Magic in them…

I’ve often spoken and written about how we create with our Words… I wish I could take credit for that observation – the truth is that all the great traditions have known this for centuries. The Buddha himself said:

“The thought manifests as the word. The word manifests as the deed. The deed develops into habit. And the habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care. And let it spring from love, born out of concern for all beings.”

The Buddha lived from around 563 to 483 BC – so this is not new news!

Here’s a yummy story to illustrate my point….

A few years ago, I took the year-long Wisdom Course at Landmark Education. One of the areas that we work on in that course is “What are your dreams?” And the practice was to “Speak your dreams…”

At first, I thought, “Oh, that sounds nice…. but, REALLY….?”

Part of our homework was to make collages of how life “seems” to us… I didn’t realize it at the time, but those conversations that exist in the background of our lives are what keep us from having what we want… If we don’t believe we deserve it — or we say “Oh, that will never happen…,” it’s easy to see that we might just be the ones who are keeping those dreams at bay…. Out there, just beyond our reach…

My collages were very dramatic and dire…. I didn’t realize that I was holding it that I had “lost” so many things in my life…. even though, many of those very things I had chosen to leave behind: my glamorous career in the fashion business, going to fashion shows all over the world, staying in the most beautiful hotels, dinners with famous designers, living in a beautiful apartment off Park Avenue, my beautiful house on the beach in the Hamptons, and so on… and so on….

As I started to work on my collages, I started to come up with themes like, “It seems like I have destroyed everything that I love,” “It seems like I had my chance and I blew it,” and “It seems like I will never live in beauty again….”

As I worked on that last one, I noticed a picture on the worktable – it was a picture of an ancient temple, over-grown with vines and with big white trees growing up through the walls…. It spoke to me of a former grandeur that was no more…

“Like my life…”, I thought.

I grabbed the picture up from the table, turned to my group and said, “Who cut this out? Where is this? Does anyone need this one?”

Everyone said, “No, take it…. we don’t know what that is….”

I placed it carefully on my collage — it seemed to fit perfectly…..

We did other work with those collages – and I was able to shift my conversation about myself from how I had lost everything into “I am always triumphant!” It was a glorious moment for me when I got that for myself….

A few months later, I was invited to a special screening of a film created by two of the other participants in the Wisdom Course. The film is called “New Year Baby” and it is the director’s own story of her family’s survival and escape from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

This award-winning film moved me to tears… By the time it was over, I wanted to know more about Cambodia, more about what happened during the reign of the Khmer Rouge, more about the director, Socheata Poeuv, whose story it was, and her co-writer and producer, Charles Vogl….

As I was speaking with Charles about Cambodia and how fascinating it was to me, he said, “We’re going with a group to Cambodia in February… Too bad I didn’t know earlier that you would be so interested… The trip is full…. Don’t worry, we’ll probably go again next year…”

I remember saying, longingly, “Oh, I really want to go…!”

The week after, my coach in the Wisdom course asked me to show my collages to the rest of the group and to tell them what I got from them. As I showed the collage titled, “It seems like I will never live in beauty again…”, a friend in the group, Deborah, pointed at the picture of the ancient temple and said, “I’ve been there!”

I just stared at her, “Where is that?” I said….

Deborah answered, “It’s in Cambodia….”

I got chills up and down my spine…

I looked at the board again, and I said, without thinking, “I’m going there…”

Three days later, Charles Vogl called me. He told me that three people had dropped out of the trip to Cambodia and did I want to come?

It was too perfect. I said “Yes” before I even asked how much it was!

I spent the next two months generating the money to go… it seemed almost effortless… “Effortless” is the way things seem to me when I am certain that I am on the right path. Obstacles dropped by the wayside, apartments closed with ease, the commission checks I needed to come through for the trip – Well, they just did…

I went to Cambodia for 10 days in February of 2007 – with 22 of the most wonderful people I have ever known. It was an adventure from beginning to end… both exciting and – at one point, scary – when one of the jeeps we were riding in on the way to a temple in the North, swung out of control and wound up flipping over several times to land upside down in a ditch on the side of the road. Charles’ parents were hurt and air-lifted to Bangkok, while Charles and my other friend, Ron, suffered less severe injuries – the jeep driver had to be taken to the hospital and remained there for months….

Several days into the trip, we visited a temple called “Ta Proehm.” Immediately, I recognized that this temple, with the white trees growing out of the walls, was the one from my collage. As I walked through the temple grounds, I felt myself becoming more and more captured by my surroundings… with each step, my anticipation grew…

Finally, I turned a corner…. and there it was… the very scene in my collage….

I couldn’t move… I was overwhelmed that I was standing there, in the very spot in which the photographer must have been standing when he took the picture… I felt led to that moment from the beginning of my journey so many months before….. The scene was awesome, a Presence palpable — how old the temple was and how many centuries it must have taken for the trees to grow up through the walls, how beautiful it all was…

“How beautiful it all was…!” As the thought struck me, I realized that my collage was titled, “It seems that I will never live in beauty again….” and here I was, standing in the midst of that raw, natural beauty – and I was a part of it….

A few of my friends who knew the story, came over to me… “This is it, isn’t it?”

I could hardly speak….”Yes… yes… this is it…..”

That moment will live forever in my memory… not only that I had manifested a dream by getting everything out of the way that prevented it from coming true… but that it had come true in an even greater way than I could ever have imagined…. to show me that what I once thought of as “over” and “lost” was really a new beginning….

Deliciously yours in the Grandeur of it All, Linda

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” …Goethe

Ta Proehm2This is Ta Proehm in Cambodia, February, 2007 — A temple that had been lost in the jungle for centuries — when it was rediscovered, the government decided to leave it in it’s natural beauty rather than to clean it up as it did Angkor Wat, the most famous of the temples of the ancient Khmer civilization. They are both magnificent….. Ta Proehm is also the temple in which Angelina Jolie shot many of the scenes for her first “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” movie…

If you want to know more about “New Year Baby,” the film that got me to Cambodia, please visit www.newyearbaby.net.

 

NYB_Poster_200px

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

chocolate-heart-sl-257663-lHi, Everyone!  It’s Linda here again… And, Oh, what a delicious treat I have for you!!    I love stories about my friends because they are the delights of my life…

AND we aren’t always wonderful with our friends… are we?    And, if we can’t always be great with our friends — if we can make even the ones we love wrong, what chance do we have with the world? 

There’s a way out, but it doesn’t come easy….  AND it’s worth the effort….  

See if you agree…. 

This is a story about two of my friends who taught me an amazing lesson about love…   actually, I think we all taught each other an awesome lesson about life and love and partnership  and communication and being together in relationship… 

The three of us were in a yearlong course together this year called “Power and Contribution” – all about taking a stand for what we want to see in the world — making a promise to the whole world that we will live inside of for the rest of our lives….     Mine starts out, “By 2025, I promise a world in which all people know themselves as lovable and precious….”    Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? 

So, what shows up when you take a stand like that?  THAT….being loving, treating everyone as the precious Beings that we all are…  and everything that is NOT THAT!  Not feeling lovable and precious, making it so everyone around me doesn’t feel lovable and precious….  

It really takes something for me to stay present to my stand for myself and the world ALL THE TIME…. sometimes, I wonder if it’s even possible… and then…   I create it all over again that it is MY possibility… and I’m alive once more, joyfully living inside my promise! 

So, here’s Laurie and Shana and me – all up to really great things – all three of us committed to life and to each other and to everyone else in the course…. and, to even greater things…. to everyone in the World! 

I was at Shana’s house a couple of weeks before our fourth weekend of the course….  five of our group showed up and it seemed like everything was going great… we ordered food in, we shared what we were up to…  the only downer of the evening for me was that I looked in my handbag to find my wallet to pay for dinner and it wasn’t there.  I was scared at first that I had been pick-pocketed on the subway, but then I remembered that I had taken it out to buy something on-line… “Hmm…,” I wondered….  “had I forgotten to put it back afterwards…?”  

No problem.  Shana covered me and I promised to give her the $11 at the reviewer’s Landmark Forum that we were doing that weekend…. 

Shana pulled out boxes and boxes of chocolate…  She had had a chocolate-tasting event as a fund-raiser the week before… and, now, here we were, all tasting, yet again, all these different kinds of delicious, delightful chocolates…..  

(You all know I LOVE chocolate, right?) 

There was one in particular that I loved… chocolate that had chili pepper in it…  what an unusual flavor!  Quite unexpected…. and so yummy… 

As we all got ready to leave, we helped Shana clean up and put everything back….  I saw that there were three pieces of the chili chocolate left in the package…  I couldn’t resist….  I called out to her, “Can I take these home?” 

And, off we all went… 

I saw Shana briefly on Friday as the Forum got started, but when I sought her out later, she was nowhere to be found… 

The course was so glorious…  I thought, “How could there be anything new to get out of the Landmark Forum after all this time?”  Wow, how wrong could I be…!  it’s all about “seeing with new eyes” and we get to do that all the time…  like an adventure to a new land each and every day… 

When I arrived home Saturday night, I realized that I hadn’t seen Shana at all that day….  Hmmm….  “I wonder what happened?”  

I dashed off an email to her…  “Where were you?  I have your money for you….  AND, is everything OK?” 

I awakened early Sunday morning for Day 3 of the Landmark Forum and did a fast fly-by of my emails….  There was one from Shana – she explained that she had left mid-day on Friday with a head-ache…. and, then she wrote, “Can we speak on Monday because something has been on my mind and I think it’s time we talked…..”   

What could that be? 

I wrote back that if anything was bothering her, I wanted to clean it up right away….  could we talk that day on one of my breaks?  “Call me,” I wrote. 

It sat in the background all day….  It didn’t  ruin the day… but there was an “incompletion” there – this gnawing feeling that something was wrong… 

I watched myself in action over the next few days…  I went from worried:  “What did I do wrong?” to frantic:  “What’s this all about?” – and then, in crept the anger….  “What the….???” 

Human beings are so funny, really….  we make up stories of what something is about because we cannot stand not to know, then we believe those stories, then we make the other person wrong and we justify ourselves….  and, half the time, we don’t even know what it’s all about in the first place!!!  

What made it even more frustrating for me was that it was a busy week for both of us and we kept missing each other’s calls…. the longer whatever it was stayed in the air, the worse it got… 

By the time we got to San Francisco the following weekend, we could barely speak to each other….!  We tried to talk about what was there for each of us…  Who could hear anything?  What was there for both of us was anger, defense, justification…. 

She was annoyed at me for talking too much,  for taking the chocolate, and for forgetting my wallet… 

I was annoyed that she threw a “sour” note into my Forum weekend and didn’t give me the opportunity to get things “straightened out” between us….  When she brought up the chocolate…  I really lost it…! 

“Lovable and precious…?”  Hah!  We were like vipers in a nest…. 

And, we were roommates! 

And…. we REALLY love each other. 

We finally got it that we couldn’t do this ourselves… we needed someone who was not involved to “mediate” this – whatever “this” was…  we both knew that it wasn’t really about what we said it was about…  we were “hooked” by something…. something that reminded each of us of a time when we felt small… and now something triggered that hidden feeling… and both of us were right “there” again…. 

Like two little three-year-olds, fighting over a toy…. 

We agreed that we would ask our friend – and our other roommate – Laurie, to help us resolve what was there to resolve….   What’s important here is that, as annoyed as each of us was, we were committed to getting it cleaned up with each other… we knew that our friendship was too important, too rich, to allow “stuff” to get in the way…

And now… Let me tell you about Laurie….  amazing master of transformation that she is….  She’s been a Course Supervisor at Landmark Education for years….  really present, really authentic, really courageous… 

She took it on…  She took us on… 

Later that night, the three of us sat in our room…  With Laurie’s guidance, we said what was there for each of us…  starting with the surface and going deeper into what was there from an earlier, similar time in our lives…. 

It was tough… at first, we couldn’t even listen to each other…  AND we kept talking, getting it all out…  What was critical in this process was to just let the other person say what was there for them, without trying to defend it or explain it away or justify it…  That was what Laurie was being vigilant about… to remind each of us…. “Just ‘get’ the communication…. that’s how it is for her, do you get that?”

For Shana, it was about being taken advantage of….  a story that is not mine to share here —  that my asking for the chocolate and forgetting my wallet took her right back in time… 

For me, it was the always worrying that I wouldn’t please my father and he would be angry…  and an incident when I was little that got triggered in me by Shana being angry that I didn’t bring a chicken that I had promised I would bring to an earlier gathering, but forgot…. 

I remembered when I was 8 years old and I wanted to play with this group of girls… they saw that I always looked at them and finally, they asked me to come to their “club” the next day – but I had to bring something… cookies or cupcakes… 

I was so excited.  I got DRESSED UP and went to meet them with a box of chocolate-chip cookies….    They came up to me, grabbed the cookies out of my hands, and ran away, laughing…. 

I ran home, crying… 

Never again, I thought…. 

I found myself blurting out to Shana, “This reminds me of the girls who didn’t want me, they just wanted my cookies…”   Wow!  I didn’t realize that was how I saw it!

Sounds silly, doesn’t it..? 

That’s our lives…. incidents happen and we make decisions about others and about ourselves… and, if we’re not aware… anything that looks like that now can take us right back — into that hurt…  into the pain… 

It didn’t have anything to do with a chicken or pieces of chocolate…..   

It never does… 

We kept at it….   each time we thought we had released everything, Laurie would ask us if there was “anything else there?”…  and, for more than an hour…. there WAS more…. 

Until there wasn’t… 

Until there was nothing but this beautiful space…. and out of that space emerged the love that we both have for each other…  that the three of us have for each other…  We were moved beyond anything we could speak of right then…. 

Soon, hugs and kisses and laughter rang through the room… 

We climbed into our beds and turned out the lights.  We were quiet, but we were all aware of what we had just done.  We were fully present to the love….   all three of us said… softly… and almost at the same time, “This is the most awesome thing — what we’ve done here….”, “I am so in love with the two of you…”, and, finally: 

“What if everyone in the world did this?” 

Well, then… All people would know themselves as lovable and precious….

Deliciously yours in the Beauty of it All!   Linda 

“When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him you will see yourself.  As you treat him you will treat yourself.  As you think of him you will think of yourself.  Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself.”  

“A Course in Miracles”, Text, page 142

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

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